A cheap analogue-video-to-iMovie solution sought for FireWire MacBook owner
June 25, 2010 11:52 AM   Subscribe

I would like to route standard def DVD playback straight into iMovie on the cheap. I have a FireWire 2007 MacBook. Thinking about an obsolete, second-hand DV camera (and connecting DVD player to it), but don't know what models to look for. I'm also open to suggestions for software or other hardware. Please help me work out what I really need.

I'd like to record standard def DVD clips directly into iMovie on my FireWire MacBook.

In the past I've borrowed a DV camera with a FireWire output and run the video directly into iMovie, having first connected a DVD player to the camera. This works well.

I don't own one of these cameras and don't really have an interest in one for use as a camera per se, but I've been thinking of picking up an obsolete, used one on eBay that would allow me to use it basically as an analogue video FireWire bridge.

I have read briefly about the Canopus devices, but it's not clear to me whether the conversion within a camera would be better. Plus the Canopus devices are a bit more than I'd like to spend.

What I've read about the Elgato products doesn't sound appealing either. The Video Capture one is in the right price range when new, but again, comments about quality (one-size-fits-all codec?) put me off.

All that said, if there was something bus-powered out there that did what I want, I might look for it on eBay too.

What might even work is something a bit like Audio Hijack / WireTap Pro that could grab the video stream underlying DVD Player or VLC, if such a thing were possible. I looked at the Snapz Pro X evaluation, but it didn't seem to be what I needed.

So I'm back to thinking about a DV camera and assuming that by now there must be something that does a good job as a bridge that no-one otherwise wants, and so is cheap on eBay. What I'm looking for is quality of conversion. So are there good models to look for? Any to avoid?

Thanks for any tips. Quality and flexibility much more important than ease of use.
posted by galaksit to Technology (8 answers total)
Formac Studio Deluxe might be an option. You might be able to pick one up cheaply on eBay.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:02 PM on June 25, 2010

Why not record directly from the DVD drive in your mac?
Using some of the instructions here: http://www.applemacvideo.com/howtoconvert/dvdmac/dvd-to-avi-mac.html, you could rip specific chapters to AVI and then trim those down using VirtualDub.
posted by tmt at 12:16 PM on June 25, 2010

Is there a reason you don't want to rip the video off the dvd directly/digitally?
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:16 PM on June 25, 2010

Handbrake. Rip the whole thing or just the bits you want.
posted by jjb at 12:18 PM on June 25, 2010

Ripping the DVD requires transcoding and editing via software, which can be awfully slow. DV converters provide a direct feed into iMovie, which might be what the asker is looking for.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:38 PM on June 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far.

Blazecock Pileon -- thanks for the Formac tip, I hadn't come across that one.

What I'm hoping to avoid is intermediate storage in other formats, and I would like the ability to be playing the DVD "live", seeing feedback in iMovie (or another on-computer client, I suppose) and to hit record / stop in real time. So ripping the DVD to disk first isn't my first choice -- plus I'm trying to set this up for a less technical user, who wants that kind of "live recording" capability.

Something that had a software client into which I could record live clips in a format that could then be imported into iMovie wouldn't be bad (I think the Elgato Video Capture falls into this category), as it would at least minimize the amount of intermediate storage I use and I could delete it after import to iMovie. But it's the quality that concerns me.

So maybe my options are limited to DV/FW-bridge cameras, and second-hand versions of the higher-end dedicated devices like the Canopus and Formac products?
posted by galaksit at 12:38 PM on June 25, 2010

Glasksit, keep in mind that your standard definition DVD will already be "low-resolution" quality, i.e. 480i. So you're not going to get HD quality, regardless of which of the conversion options you choose.

It looks like the Elgato has specs that will give you up-sampled HD output, but you would have an intermediate H.264 file that you first record with the Elgato software, before you import that file into iMovie. Quality aside, this sounds like something you don't want anyway.

You may want something that outputs a DV feed, like the camcorder, Formac, or a DV cassette deck. This DV feed will be accessible for recording and editing directly within iMovie, without any intermediate file conversion.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:51 PM on June 25, 2010

Response by poster: Yes, as above my only experience so far is with a DV camera as a bridge and the quality seems good enough. I'm not interested in even faked, upconverted HD, because I intend to make standard definition DVDs out of this. The best analogue to digital standard definition conversion that runs straight into iMovie is what I'm looking for, on a budget. Let's say that budget is USD150 though ideally I'd spend less than USD100. (That Formac you suggested is looking good right now.)

I don't know much about video, but my instinct is that a cheap Elgato dongle is going to have a crappy ADC inside it and that I might find higher quality in a used DV camera. but I don't have any idea of good models to look for, hence the question.

posted by galaksit at 1:28 PM on June 25, 2010

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